If you follow me on social media(@irina_tee), you probably know that I visited my birth country in the end of October. It was an emotional trip that filled my soul with memories and melancholy. I haven't been to my hometown in over ten years and it made me realize something. Did I feel at home? I felt comfortable, yes, but I didn't really feel at home.
Immigrants are stuck between two worlds - we no longer belong in our birth countries, yet we're not considered fully "local" in Montreal either. Let me explain why you should let go of this mentality right now.
The never ending nature vs. nurture debate is what comes to mind. So what are you, as an immigrant, defined by? Is it appropriate for people to ask where you came from in order to grasp an idea of your personality? Or is it where we grow up that shapes us?
I watched a great speech by Taiye Selasi for TEDtalks. She believes that a person cannot be defined by a concept, such as the country of birth mentioned in our passports, because that would imply that a country is an absolute that doesn't change over time. It makes so much more sense to value our culture rather than our country, right?
In reality, what defines us as human beings are our personal experiences and not a stamp in our passport. We are what we do! Things we do on a daily basis, people we surround ourselves with, etc. That's who we truly are. Consequently, instead of the standard, "Where are you from?" question, a much more appropriate alternative would be, "Where are you a local?"
At this point of my life, I am totally a local in Montreal. I grab my coffee at Café Olimpico on my way to work, I hike on Mount-Royal on the weekends, I date Montreal boys and I hate construction as much as a born and raised Montrealer does. So next time you want to post a comment under my article asking, "What does this have to do with Montreal?" the answer is, "Everything."